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NEWS | Dec. 11, 2014

Nevada Guard assistant adjutant general kicks off Diversity Speaker Series at Air National Guard Readiness Center

By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy National Guard Bureau

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. - Good leaders are adaptable and have diversity of thought in their actions and decisions, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Ondra Berry, the assistant adjutant general for Air with the Nevada National Guard, during a mentorship session at the Air National Guard Readiness Center earlier this week.

"It's not a one-size-fits-all approach," said Berry, during the session, which marked the first of several mentorship sessions that are part of the Air National Guard's Diversity Council Speaker Series. "If you don't have diversity of thought, if you're not able to take in different information, if you don't have critical, analytical thinking skills you're not going to be at your best."

Those are just one part of what Berry described during his talk as the traits that make up good, strong leaders. Inspiring growth is another key element, Berry said.

"The number one correlation to happiness and success in any organization is when the leaders have an intentional plan for growth," he said. "What are you reading? How are you developing yourself? Have you gone back to school? What are you doing to grow yourself? That is the number one way we get to happiness."

And for military members, said Berry, that sense of personal growth and building the ability to lead goes beyond simply attending schools that are part of the Air Force's professional military education (PME).

PME is just minimum standards, according to Berry. His advice to leaders was that if they want to promote, they have to take the elite. "You have to pour into yourself constantly if you want to get better."

Tying into that sense of growth also involves working to get past your own constraints and building on new ideas.

"No organization rises above the constraints of its leaders," said Berry. "If you have constraints, you can't rise to the next level. If I'm not working on my constraints, I'm not going to get any better."

And those that are unwilling to work past those constraints and grow as individuals and leaders, aren't fit for leadership positions, said Berry.

"If I don't deal with my constraints to be a better leader, somebody else will have to," he said. "There's an impact on the mission when I don't' improve or get better. If I don't deal with it, somebody else will have to."

Remembering that as a leader, your choices have far reaching effects is important, said Berry.

"The bottom line is people. Your decision making impacts people," he said.

Berry said that elements of good and effective leaders come down to their heart set, mindset, skill set and tool set.

"If your heart is not in the right place, nothing else matters," he said, adding that leaders need to constantly add new and better behaviors and approaches to their skill set as well. The mindset aspect involves a continual re-evaluation of your belief systems while asking what tools and resources do you have and can bring to bear. "

As a leader, I've got to be able to adjust and adapt," he said, adding that an important element that needs to be incorporated is strong and focused coaching of junior leaders.

"We have to build a culture of coaching," he said. "They have all this talent. Who's coaching them?"

Even the most talented individuals and leaders need coaching because coaches can see certain blind spots, said Berry.

"They can see your gaps and what you're struggling with," he said. "When people get coached, they get better."

Coaching also involves having a passion for what it is you're doing, said Berry.

"You have to have passion," he said. "Too many are in roles and responsibilities and jobs and have no passion. When your fire is out, you can tell. When you lose passion, when you stop growing, you start aging and dying."

In the end, it's about remaining agile and continually growing and encouraging others.

"Thriving means being agile, growing and improving and capitalizing on new things," he said.

Change is always going to happen.

"Change is inevitable, growth is optional," Berry said. "Change is going to happen. It's going to be thrown at you. How well will you adjust and adapt?"

Berry also spoke at the National Guard Diversity Conference held this week in Savannah, Georgia.



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